Pennsylvania Senator Pushes for Local Solar Power Subscription Programs

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Many across Pennsylvania still find connecting to solar power financially out of reach and technically challenging.

Consequently, one Erie County lawmaker is reintroducing a bill aimed at bridging the gap for renters and homeowners who cannot invest in their own rooftop solar panels.

Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, proposed a plan on Thursday to establish subscription programs, ensuring residents receive 100% solar power from a local source instead of the conventional grid mix.

“This bill will enable those who truly believe in renewable energy but live in areas unsuitable for generating it to invest their money in supporting a cleaner grid,” he said Thursday.

Although residents can choose renewable energy plans from Pennsylvania’s retail electricity market, much of that power is generated in places like Tennessee or Kentucky.

A spokeswoman from Laughlin’s office noted that many of the plans marketed are not genuinely “green” because project developers frequently sell their solar renewable energy credits to fossil fuel suppliers. These suppliers then use the credits to claim that a portion of the power provided to customers is from renewable sources.

The credits vary in price from $3.50 per megawatt hour produced to as high as $370, based on each state’s market value. In October 2022, Pennsylvania credits were valued between $40 and $42.

Laughlin’s plan, however, mandates that local sources must retain their credits so that the generation is counted towards the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, thereby ensuring its “green” status.

The proposal comes while the senator firmly opposes a plan to install wind turbines in Lake Erie. The House OK’d the measure in April, which would permit land leases in the central and western regions of the lake.

While proponents assert the development plans avoid ecological and economic disruptions, critics disagree.

“If this bill is proposed for environmental stewardship, it’s anything but,” said Rep. Jake Banta, R-Waterford, during an April 17 floor debate.

He mentioned that negotiations excluded the property owners, anglers, and charter captains he represents who “want to preserve their peaceful way of life.” They all feared that the wind turbines would not only mar the shoreline view but also risk oil leaks and disturb toxic sediment on the lake bed.

Laughlin did not comment on the bill back then but clarified on Thursday that he does not support it.

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